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In Empty Lands: 6. Folk out of Legend
Folk out of Legend
Boromir looked away from the mirror provided for his room as a knock sounded at the door. "Enter!" he called.
The door opened, and in the doorway stood a tall Elf, his dark hair carefully braided at the temples and caught with silver beads set with lapis. "My Lord Boromir? I am Elladan, and am to escort you to the dawn meal, if you are ready."
"One moment only," the Man said. "They did not bring back my boots, I note."
"I pray your pardon--it is not a slight, but they were much broken down, Erestor has told me, and will need to be properly replaced. Considering their state, my adar wondered that you were even able to make it the last of the way here."
"I began stuffing them with hay some weeks back, once the soles began to wear through," the Gondorian admitted.
"The shoes provided are such as our own folk wear, although I doubt they would serve you for long in the wild. However, they should serve your needs well enough while you dwell here in this house." The Elf examined the Man carefully and with obvious approval. "And the shirt provided you fits you well enough?"
This shirt was of a similar color to that he'd worn, which would need new sleeves, he knew, those having become badly frayed from being worn most of the time over the past three months. Boromir looked again at the new one that had been placed on the stand in his room along with his breeches and padded gambeson that he wore usually under his mail and the heavy tunic he usually wore over all. This shirt, of a color between a dusky rose and that of new wine, was of a particularly soft linen and was embroidered with golden sunbursts down the placket, about the sleeve ends and along the lower hem. "It fits as though it had been designed particularly for me," the Man admitted.
The Elf nodded. "My sister will be pleased," he commented. "She began preparing it not long after midsummer, and had no idea for whom it might be intended. It is not truly of a shade preferred by our younger brother. We thought it might be intended as a midwinter gift perhaps to one of his kinsmen. But once she saw the state of the shirt you had worn she knew that this shirt should come to you."
"I thank you," Boromir replied, "and your sister as well. She is most talented with her embroidery."
The Elf smiled. "That she is. And the stockings fit you?"
"Indeed. They are marvelously soft."
"The wool is from the Shire. Perhaps it is from the very farm on which our young guest Peregrin Took lived as a child. I will have to ask him, I suppose. Do come, Lord Boromir."
The Man had the soft slippers on his feet swiftly enough, and followed his guide down the corridor and to the turning down which he'd been led the previous night. "You have many guests?" he asked.
"More than Rivendell has seen in some time," the Elf admitted. "Many have come, each on his own errand it seems, all of which appear to be focused on the same matter. We shall have much on which to speak as the council begins."
They walked by a room in which could be seen the Man Boromir had met in the early morning hours seated with three others, at least one of whom he'd seen among the Rangers he'd encountered at Weathertop. By them sat steaming mugs of some drink and plates of food. One of the three Men was eating rapidly while the one he'd heard called Estel questioned the one Boromir recognized, and the third sat sideways to the others, his arms crossed on the top of a small table and his head pillowed on them as if exhausted. As the Gondorian passed the door he found himself craning his head to take in the scene, and as they walked on beyond it he realized that the Elf had caught his interest and was amused by it.
"Strider is receiving reports from his folk," the Elf said rather succinctly.
"I see. They appeared certain he would be here when I met them along the road."
"They know him well enough, as well as the reason for his journey. It was likely that he would bring his charges here, after all." He indicated another hallway. "The dining hall is this way. I am sorry not to company you further, but I have my own reports to give and orders to receive. I returned last evening during the feast, and spent most of it speaking with Estel myself of what Elrohir and I found of the traces of the Enemy's servants. Now I must meet with the master of the house before the council, and agreed to guide you here as most others are busy about one task or another. Now, you may go through there and then turn right...." He indicated another doorway. "If you will forgive me, I suspect that time will be at a premium for my brother and me."
With that he gave a graceful inclination of his head and turned to continue down the main hallway of the house. A tall, golden-haired Elf clad as a warrior paused to speak briefly to him, then continued toward the dining hall himself, tucking a pair of riding gloves into his belt as he came.
"My Lord Boromir?" he said as he came even with the Man. "Welcome to Imladris. My name in Glorfindel, and I am the captain of the vale's forces of defense as well as one of Lord Elrond's counselors. He is busy now preparing for the council to come and taking last-minute counsel with Gandalf as he breaks his fast, and so it is he cannot greet you at this time. If I might accompany you to the morning meal?"
The Man felt relief not to be alone. The name Glorfindel caught at his attention, although he could not now think precisely why it might be important. Something, perhaps, from the old legends? Someone this Glorfindel was perhaps named for? "I would be glad of your company, Master Glorfindel," he said with a slight bow.
Together they turned through first one and then another door, entering what was plainly a large dining hall that seemed filled with natural light, both from the surrounding windows looking out on the beauty of the vale and from skylights in the ceiling that appeared to be set with colored glass. On the inner side of the room lay a long sideboard on which Elves were even now setting dishes of various foods, and waiting for them to move away stood a sturdy child who held a large tray, a second child, smaller and more slender, beside him. Glorfindel smiled at the sight of these and moved to greet them. "Master Samwise! You will not be taking your dawn meal with us, then?"
The sturdier child looked up, flushing some and inclining his head. Boromir had the idea that had his hands been free he would have been pulling at his forelock. "Thank you, Master Glorfindel, sir," he said, "but I'll be eatin' with my Master and old Mr. Bilbo. He didn't rise for first breakfast, so I'll be takin' him enough for both, as Master Elrond said as I should. I'm right pleased at how well he's doin', all things considered, of course. I mean, memberin' as how bad off as he was day afore yesterday, if'n you take my meanin', sir."
"Indeed I do understand. Bear him my greetings, and may your meal be pleasant."
"Thank you again, sir." Again a duck of the head, and he turned his attention to the one with him. "Now, Mr. Pippin, sir, now as the ones servin' is all cleared away, you think as you could get me some of them sticky buns--they ought to go down well, don't you think? And the pears in light syrup, as they ought not to be too heavy on his stomach. What do you think about...."
Glorfindel drew the Man away. "We should allow them some time to fill their tray. One thing I have learned about the Hobbits of the Shire--it does not do to come between them and their breakfasts, either one of them. Master Bilbo has certainly taught us that!"
"And what are children such as these doing here? Are their parents with them? Or do children work as servants among these Hobbits of the Shire?"
The Elf's eyes lit with amusement. "I will advise you to guard your tongue about them. I have had more than enough reason to be reminded over the yeni that the adults among the Hobbits do not appreciate being mistaken for children." He led the way to a nearby table. "We can sit here, if that meets with your approval." Together they sat and watched as at long last the broader child finally appeared pleased with the selection of foodstuffs the slighter one had placed on the tray and nodded his thanks as he turned to carry his load (enough, Boromir thought, for about five people) carefully past those seeking to enter the chamber. What the Elf had said confused him, he found. He watched as the maiden Meliangiloreth entered the room carrying a pair of larger platters and approached the second child, who'd been reaching for a plate apparently for himself. She said something to him, and he'd smiled broadly, eagerly accepting one of the platters. Now he took it and began rapidly filling it.
Boromir watched with fascination. "He, too, will be taking that to share with others of his party?" the Man asked.
"Others of his party? Oh, no. It is most likely all intended for himself. Ah--and here is the other one."
Still another child had entered and was greeted by Meliangiloreth and presented with the second platter. He thanked her and gave her a gracious bow--and suddenly Boromir realized that this was no child after all. He approached the sideboard and began filling his dish much as was the other, who turned to greet him with a good deal of pleasure, apparently pointing out the most desirable dainties.
"Then those----" Boromir found himself uncertain what to say as he caught sight of the feet of one of the two--Hobbits--now serving himself at the sideboard.
"If you had begun asking if those are Periannath, or Halflings, the answer is yes, although their own name for their people is Hobbits. The fact Hobbits do not raise beards tends to confuse many--until they notice the hair on their feet and the shape of their ears. Only then does it become apparent these are not children after all. Although I will tell you that even their most venerable citizens will retain a child-like quality that is very endearing. But do not mistake their child-like nature for foolishness--they are far more sagacious than they appear. Certainly Master Bilbo is constantly taking us by surprise with his observations and conclusions, and Lord Elrond has accepted him as an honored advisor."
"But the one who left is a servant?"
"Of sorts. His father served as gardener to the home Bilbo Baggins lived in when he dwelt in the Shire, and now Samwise Gamgee serves in the same capacity to Frodo Baggins, who inherited that home from Master Bilbo when he removed here some years ago."
The Elf caught the Man's full attention. "Rarely do the Hobbits of the Shire leave their own land or consort with other peoples, Lord Boromir. When they do so, however, we have found there is always a serious reason or purpose for them to come forth. Never undervalue a Hobbit."
It was advice the heir of Denethor of Gondor was to think on frequently in the next few months.
Once the two Hobbits left the sideboard others began to approach it, and both the Man and his companion joined the Elves who were now seeking their breakfasts. Then from the outer room could be heard the clattering of heavy boots. Surprised at the noise, Boromir turned from the platter of eggs to look behind him, just in time to see a group of what must be Dwarves entering. Indeed they were much shorter than were Men, although they were at least a head taller than the Hobbits had proved to be.
"And will I see the esteemed burglar Bilbo Baggins today, Father?" one with a russet beard was asking a venerable Dwarf dressed in fine fabrics and with hair and beard of the snowiest of whites.
"I know not--I did not see him last night, for he came not to the feast. Lord Elrond indicated he took his meal within the Hall of Fire--that he found the thought of a feast overwhelming. Remember, Gimli my son--Bilbo is now old in the reckoning of his own folk. Not," he added, "that I am particularly young, either."
The Dwarf gave a nod, then glared at an Elf dressed in greens and browns whom he apparently felt came too close for his comfort. "If only these dratted Elves from Mirkwood hadn't followed us here!" he growled in low tones, although Boromir could only assume that the Elf must have heard him as clearly as he did. "The Elves of Rivendell have always been hospitable enough toward us--but those of Mirkwood? Nah!" he spat. "What do they care about Dwarves?"
The Elf in question strode away with his half-filled plate, his head held remarkably straight. Boromir judged that this one with the golden hair was as offended by the presence of the Dwarves as they were by him.
The Dwarves quickly filled plates and began looking about, immediately noting the two Hobbits where they sat apart from the others and moving to join them. "Please, small masters," said the white haired Dwarf, "may we join you?" At their assent the group of Dwarves sat by the two small folk. "I had hoped to see Master Frodo again this morning. Does he continue well?"
"I've not heard otherwise," answered the taller of the two Hobbits, whose hair was darker than the other's. "He was still sleeping when we stopped by to see if he would join us for first breakfast, and I saw Sam taking a tray to share with him and Bilbo. I'm not certain if they'll eat in Bilbo's chambers or Frodo's. But Sam is much relieved now Frodo is up and about again."
The white haired Dwarf nodded. "I am so glad for Bilbo's sake that his beloved nephew appears recovered. How was it he came to be wounded?"
The two Hobbits both shivered. "It's not something," the darker haired Hobbit answered slowly, "that we wish to think about--not now in the brightness of daylight here! No, let Frodo tell you himself!"
The younger one added, "I'm only glad we got here in time. What Gandalf and Strider have told us could have happened----" He shuddered once more, and even with his back against the window he appeared notably pale, or so Boromir thought.
The Man turned to his own companion as they took their seats again. But after a look into the Elf's eyes Boromir turned his attention hurriedly back to his own plate once more. In that gaze he'd seen an ancient grief and a burning anger--and patience, a patience honed by millennia of experience. He only felt relief that he did not appear to be the target of that fury.
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